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JavaFX sure was an interesting topic of conversation around this blog for while -- Java to compete in the RIA space! Make a grand play for relevance in the Web 2.0 world! -- until suddenly it wasn't, with everything up in the air in light of the Sun-Oracle merger, and who knows what the priorities will be for all these embryonic technologies. With the merger on indefinite hold, however, we might as well check in to see what's up!
TheServerSide.com: Hard times for JavaFX?
Steve Anglin: Did RIM BlackBerry kill JavaFX?
Sounds cheery! The BlackBerry story, in essence, is that that smartphone platform, which has always been very Java-friendly, is turning to Adobe's AIR for rather than JavaFX for its RIAs. I did find a bit of good news, anyway, in an Ars Technica story on simple multitrack reporting applications: there's one from a company called Indaba that's based on JavaFX! Here at last, I thought, is an actual, working JavaFX app that isn't a demo but is meant to be used by real people for real purposes. I decided to try it out.
Admittedly this was an alpha release, but still, I wish I could say something nicer about the user experience. While JavaFX is supposed to be able to work directly in a browser window via the Java Plug-in, I've yet to see that implemented; like all JavaFX apps I've used, this one was based on Java Web Start. In attempting to use it, I was hit with multiple pop-up windows -- asking me to download the app, to give it permission to access my computer, to give the JavaFX runtime access to my computer, to save the application file -- any one of which would have probably baffled the casual user. At least on my Mac I got the option of deciding where the app would install; on Windows it was just unceremoniously saved to my desktop. Once installed and running, the application looked slick enough (I'm not enough of a musician to assess its actual functionality), although its menus and widgets looked completely out of place on both my Mac and my Windows machine. That wouldn't be such a big deal for an in-browser Web application, but since this runs as a desktop app, people expect it to look like one.
The problem, in a nutshell, is that this has been sold as competition for Flex or Silverlight, and yet it works in a fundamentally different way. From the end user's perspective, you're downloading an app, which rings more alarms than just accessing functionality in a browser window -- and the app looks weird to boot. Furthermore, even this apparently desktop application acts in unexpected ways: you can't relaunch it from the desktop, but need to go back to the original Web page to invoke it again.
I'm really wondering if these are strictly speaking limitations of the platform, or if Indaba's just implemented it poorly. Do you know of another real-world JavaFX app that works more smoothly? By all means, point me in its direction, and I'll discuss it here!